Tag Archives: straight shooter

Mayweather Win Settles It: ‘Report of (Boxing’s) Death Has Been Greatly Exaggerated’

30 Aug

The big boxing news from the Floyd Mayweather v. Conor McGregor trans-tactic fight last Saturday nite (8.26): Pugilism still reigns supreme in the world of wingding combat. As writer, humorist, philosopher and fight fan (?) Mark Twain would’ve likely put it: “The report of (boxing’s) death was an exaggeration.”

Here’s the line of questioning to listen for to get a good sense of whether a sport truly matters to the masses. On the big day the general public, young and old, men and women both, will be overheard to ask these three (3) questions:

1) Who’s fighting?
2) Who’s winning?
3) Who won?

Even my better-half, who ponders sports about as much as a lifeguard follows the morning farm report, was aware of the Big Bash. If it’s on National Public Radio (NPR) in the car, she’s listening. And when “something is in the air there’s no stopping it (R.Whorf, YankeeDoodleDandy (42))!”

Were UFC to hold championship MMA bouts in every weight division and give away a year’s free supply of any flavor Baskin-Robbins® ice cream to the first million pay-per-view customers, that in all likelihood STILL wouldn’t make a ripple in Lake Media.

And how did the Conor v. Floyd fight play out? To say it was competitive would be a bit generous to the loser, though, fans who paid big bucks seem to‘ve been overall pleased with the product, if reports are to be believed (See above; “exaggerated”).

Floyd won by a TKO in the 10th round but ruled the scorecard by comfortable margins nearly throughout the bout, the current co-record holder (Marciano) in undefeated wins (50-0) connecting on 170 punches to 111 for McGregor.

Most interesting is that many casual observers across the nation seemed genuinely interested in the bout, even excited. That hasn’t happened since George Foreman returned to the ring in the 1990s. No high voltage event like that generated by the Fight of the Century in 1971 when, on March 8th at MSG, Smokin’ Joe Frazier defeated the previously undefeated Muhammad Ali by flooring the former Cassius Clay in the final of 15-rounds to win a unanimous decision. But even so, M&M surely was an electric affair that returned boxing, however briefly, to the stature it had formerly held as a matter-of-course.

The winner was gracious in victory while the loser appeared less than so, partying afterwards like only the money really mattered.

But with the champ Mayweather now riding off into the sunset and the Hall of Fame his next big stop on the box-trail, one has to wonder if the sport made more practical by the Marquess of Queenberry rules (1867) can keep the momentum going?

With boxing having been marginalized in recent decades by changing tastes and a promoters pay-per-view greed-grab that keeps championship bouts reserved for only the most devout and financially fluid followers, it’s not likely that ANY individual or clan of boxers (1980s Sugar Ray Leonard – Marvin Hagler – Thomas Hearns) could today resurrect the competitions to their former top-tier status enjoyed for over 100 years.

Be that as it may, and regardless of how long young media males push the UFC product, it won’t be MMA that ever steps in and fills the void where pugilism once ruled the hearts of Americans, a peoples who will always be ready & waiting for that next, great boxer or match to light the marquee, if not the actual ring.

StevenKeys
StraightShooter
Posted: 8.29.17 @ 10:36pE, edit 9.1; Copyright © 2017
Photo credit: Floyd-Mayweather, 6.28.11, wc.cca, ChamberOfFear, thm; Floyd-Mayweather, wc.cca, thm, 6.29.11, DeWaltPower; Conor-McGregor, wc.cca, A.Petrucenia, thm, 3.30.15, London; Straight-Shooter-produce-label
Reference: thisdayinquotes.com, B.Deis, Reports of Mark Twain’s (5.31.15)

Advertisements

NFL16 Cherry Picks W2: New Digs, Old Scores to Settle in League’s Fiercest Feud

18 Sep

Bad Blood

The date: October 22, 1961.

The place: Metropolitan Stadium (d.1984), Bloomington, Minnesota.

The weather: Overcast, mild (55°), breezy and humid (72%).

The event: The Green Bay Packers take to Minnesota tundra for the first time to face-off against the fledgling Vikings in the Norsemen’s inaugural NFL campaign.

The head coaches: Vince Lombardi (GB ‘59) v. Norm Van Brocklin (MIN ‘61).

starr-wc-cca-gb-1956-71-301kSome of the more notable players: Green Bay: Bart Starr (QB), Paul Hornung (HB), Jim Taylor (FB), Boyd Dowler (E), Herb Adderley (CB/KR), Willie Wood (S/PR), Ray Nitschke (LB), Willie Davis (DE), Jim Ringo (C), Forrest Gregg (T/G), Jerry Kramer (G) and Henry Jordan (DT); Minnesota: Francis “The Scrambler” Tarkenton (QB), Hugh McElhenny (HB), Tommy Mason (K-PR) and Hall-of-Fame Overlookees Jim Marshall (DE) & Grady Alderman (T/G).

I was around at the time but what you might call, highly dependent.

A fetus, was I, though, in using contemporary Supreme Court standard, given Mom’s stage of pregnancy, I would’ve been adjudged well into viability (24th week (+/-), lungs working) and fully vested with all Constitutional rights and protections appurtenant.

Nonetheless, awareness was not one of those rights, or senses, more accurately, and I literally could not have cared any less than I (probably) did as to outcome of this opening act between the Vikings and Packers in the early 60s. That (caring) would come ten years later as I invoked my right to choice and began siding with one of the two teams at issue. Hint: Brett Favre was one terrific QB.

And I was the better in amniotic fluid, having missed this earliest engagement.

tarkenton-wc-themiaminews-1-9-74-320kThe first encounter between these two Northern rivals, arguably the most hateful rivalry in today’s NFL, not so much amongst players who, like most jocks in 2016, schmooze plenty (ugh), but rather, acrimony in the stands amongst the fans, wasn’t much of a contest.

The Pack, who’d go on to take the 1961 NFL title, Vince’s first as a head honcho, in trouncing Allie Sherman, Y.A. Tittle and Sam Huff’s New York Giants, 37-0, gave a like lesson in prowess to the Purple People, 33-7 on that mild, late October day. Vandy Commodore and ’62 Pro-Bowler Tom Moore ran wild in Bloomington for 159 as Tark threw three to the other team and benched for George Shaw late.

In a funny quirk of scheduling (It was a time that allowed for inexactitude), Green Bay would give the Vikings another spanking the next Sunday (It was a time that allowed for discipline), though, not so firmly, in besting their new rival, 28-10 at Lambeau, then known as City Field (It was a time that allowed for succinctness).

Things would get better for the Norsemen.

By 1964, having been thoroughly thumped by the Acme monsters for six straight, the Vikings, who almost became an AFL original in 1960 (Oakland), finally got off the schneid and beat the Packers 24-23 in the Fox Valley en route to their first winning season (8-5-1).

peterson-1-28-12-wc-arvee5-0-309kIn time, tables would turn in favor of the Minnesotans with Lombardi’s move upstairs (‘68), then to DC and Bud Grant’s long run of success from late 60s into the 1980s. The W-L tally between the two would hover around the .500 mark even through the Favre era (including his Minnesota sojourn (’09-10)) but swing heavily back to the green & yellow with coming-of-age of Mr. Rodgers.

What to expect this Sunday as the Packers fly to Minneapolis to help break the seal on the Vikes new digs, US Bank Stadium? We know Mike & Aaron will matriculate and Coach Zimmer’s men will play some defense. Keys: Can the host muster enough offense in backing their QB, whomever it be (Hill / Bradford), and the visitors make enough tackles late to make those points Rodgers does put on the board, sufficient.

cherries-cloth-picdrome-6-2011-thmCherry Picks Week 2

Dallas (0-1) @ DC (0-1): 9.18 Fox 1:00: Redskins win
Bengals (1-0) @ Pittsburgh (1-0): CBS 1:00: Cincy wins
New Orleans (0-1) @ NY Giants (1-0): Fox 1:00: Saints win
Miami Dolphins (0-1) @ New England Patriots (1-0): CBS 1:00: Miami wins
Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) @ Houston Texans (1-0): CBS 1:00: Houston wins
Tennessee Titans (0-1) @ Detroit Lions (1-0): CBS 1:00: Tennessee wins
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0) @ Arizona: Fox 4:05 (GTW): Cardinals win
Atlanta Falcons (0-1) @ Oakland Raiders (1-0): CBS 4:25: Atlanta wins
Indianapolis Colts (1-0) @ Denver Broncos (1-0): CBS 4:25: Indy wins
Packers (1-0) @ Minnesota (1-0): NBC 8:30 (GTW2): Green Bay wins
Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) @ Chicago (0-1): 9.19 Disney 8:30: Bears win

Record: 4-4

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: B.Grant, wc.cca, 1.10.77, Eugene-Register-Guard; B.Starr, wc, GB, 1956-71; F.Tarkenton, wc, The-Miami-News, 1.9.74; A.Peterson, wc, Arvee5.0, 1.28.12; cherries-cloth, wc, 06-2011, picdrome; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 9.18.16 @ 1:04am EST: Copyright © 2016

NBA17: Too Many Cooks Spoil the Splash But Cavs & Wars Are Rubbermade for Re-Match

11 Jul

The McGinnis Moral

New Oakland area teammates Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry just might be the awesome version of the dynamic George McGinnis and Julius Erving duo that took Philadelphia and the NBA by storm forty years ago. A little less muscle but the finesse factor is fairly even, Steven.

To people of the 70s, those who followed the pro hardwood game, Dyan Cannon and Jack Nicholson for example, the names McGinnis and Erving side-by-side speak volumes about the risk in packing a roster too liberally ($) with star power.

........Durant.wc.K.Allison.2-14.thmOwner Irv Kosloff (‘63) already had his Philadelphia 76ers well stocked for the 1975-76 NBA season with the likes of All-Stars Doug Collins, Steve Mix, World B. Free, ‘67 champ Billy Cunningham and then big new addition from Indiana in former ABA superstar George McGinnis. But that team would exit early in R1 of those playoffs to Bob McAdoo’s Buffalo Braves (SD-LAC). So later that year new owner Fitz Eugene Dixon would “add another hue unto the rainbow (de Vere)” in corralling the other decorated ace from the closing-for-business American in the person of New York Nets’ Julius “Dr. J” Erving under the theory ‘you can’t have too much of a good thing.’

The consecutive annual signings of players the caliber of McGinnis & Erving appeared at the time to be a straddle of that fine line between bold and desperate. Only question for the more optimistic of Philly faithful was exactly how many NBA titles they’d win by the time their dynamic duo’s contracts expired. Sound familiar (See; Durant & Curry)? Some things never change.

Sadly for McGinnis and owner Dixon that much anticipated championship never materialized in their respective Sixers tenures.

.......McGinnis.smIn George’s three years in the City of Brotherly Love (‘75-78) the Sixers reached but one Final (‘77) and though they jumped out to a 2-0 lead would lose to the Jack Ramsay – Bill Walton – Maurice Lucas Portland Trailblazers, 4-2.

The grand experiment would be terminated with the former Hoosier’s shipment to Denver (‘78-79) in exchange for forward and defensive specialist Bobby Jones who’d help Philly and newer owner Harold Katz (‘81) achieve that elusive 3rd NBA championship in 1983. More importantly, it was the signing of another former ABA’er in the incomparable Moses Malone (HOU) to start that 1982 season that proved the master stroke.

Which all toggles the question, is it too many cooks (stars) that spoils the broth (team chemistry), or more particularly, having too many chefs in the kitchen with the same specialty (ball control) that can turn the porridge pudgy?

For today’s Golden State Warriors it may be the latter maxim that proves prophetic in 2016-17: Too many shooters looking to load-up n’ fire with limited ammo: Just one Spalding to go around.

......Durant.Tokyo.2010.C.Johnson.wc.thmWith Big Cheese Kevin Durant opting to leave the only team he’s known in his career (‘08-16 (OKC – SEA)) and join a well-stocked club in GSW with leadership baton well-in-hand of the MVP (x2), champion (‘15) and co-Face of the NBA in Steve Curry (See Also; LeBron), those who remember ABBA and brewmeister Billy Carter will appreciate that any talk of a coming dynasty is as premature as getting your boogie shoes out of storage in anticipation of a ♫ disco revival ♫.

When Moses led the Philly-steens to the Promised Land (’83) he filled a big man need that the Caldwell Jones – Darryl Dawkins tandem had not met. Possessing of a soft shooter’s touch, Malone was a feared force inside (24.5 / 15.3 reb) the likes of which the Assc’n had not seen since days of Bob Lanier, a game which complemented Dr. J’s drive & dunk (21.4). Big synergy, for one year, anyway.

Likewise, when James, Riley and Spoelstra turned the Heat into familiar Eastern Finals foes (‘11-14) their run of success turned on the big three in Bosh, James & Wade knowing and then maintaining distinct roles which rarely came in conflict.

.....Curry.3.2.11.wc.K.Allison.thmbBut in Oakland, the 4-time scoring champ’s arrival presents a conundrum: How do the NBA’s two premier scorers and bona fide #1 guys concede point pile-ups and then those all important leadership reins?

Two master chefs in the same kitchen can whip up delightful concoctions but when they frequently grab for the same condiments, tempers can flare and the entrées will suffer in flavor-drain (faux-reality TV is a plague). For Durant & Curry the flavor of choice flows from the trendiest bottle on the shelf, the one labeled 3-point “zowie!”

In Kev’s nine NBA seasons he’s launched over 3000 tres (.380 (27.4)), Steve over 3500 (30.1 (‘15-16)) in just seven campaigns. While they diverge on the boards (KD: 7.0 (4.3)) and assists (SC: 6.9 (3.7)), it’s hard to imagine, however they fire ‘em off, that these two point machines can co-exist harmoniously.

From Fire to Frying Pan?

That Durant may’ve wanted a bigger market to showcase / compensate his top talent, optimize chance at winning a ring or even just a simple change of scenery, are all tenable reasons to sign with the Warriors.

......Westbrook.James.1.25.15.E.Drost.thm.wcAnd if escaping the Russ Westbrook Show, a performance like Kyrie Irving’s where the co-star never passes a chance to prove he’s a leading man, was an impetus for cleaning out his locker at Chesapeake Energy, KD would’ve been wiser to rectify that state rather than taking his talents to a theater (GSW) where #1 is set-in-stone (Curry) and he may simply re-create the same clash in talents ceded in OKC.

It was always Durant’s prerogative as Thunder’s franchise-man to have roles defined and enforced or send someone packing. That he and not Westbrook was the one who exited OKC, a city Kev was, as I suspect is RW, desirous of bringing a title, speaks to the uniqueness of Lego® LeBron who builds his own champion confections (MIA / CLE) instead of window shopping for already-made.

As for Russ, now you‘re a #1. Careful what ya’ wish for, big guy.

If It Works…

Who needs who? Does Golden State need Kev or does Kev need Golden State? Talented as is Mr. Durant, most would answer ‘no – yes’ to that query.

.....Kuhn.wc.MLB.1982.thmAnd if Bowie Kuhn were alive today and occupying the NBA Commissioner’s chair instead of Adam ‘Hi-Yo’ Silver, the Durant-to-Golden-State deal would’ve been nixed as contrary to “the best interest of (the Association).”

Just when it looked like NBA was gonna’ get interesting again with this 7-game 2016 Finals, the wealth of talent coalesces and we get a further shrinking of the field of competition in its aftermath, like life’s blood squeezing through an ever-narrowing artery. The succinct critique: Rich get richer, mediocre multiply.

Kevin, with all good intentions at team play, may actually make the Warriors a lesser team by working the same effect-in-awkwardness that did the teaming of Erving and McGinnis in 1976, talented men just as determined to championize.

What Warriors could use is another strong rebounder to complement Draymond Green, something the 6’9” Longhorn has never made a priority (7.0). Kerr might also look into finding Dray a stable-goat of sorts, someone with head screwed on straight and battle-tested who can calm the high-strung b-ball star and help keep him outta’ trouble (“Draymond…arrested” / Mlive / 7.11.16 / B.Quinn).

.....Kerr.wc.2.24.15.wc.thmb.K.AllisonBut alas, while James is NBA’s best player the Wars are, even with an excess in talent, the Association’s best team, runner-up trophy, notwithstanding. Kerr & Company run it all like a top.

The weary factor: It’s why Warriors failed to close the deal on what might’ve been the greatest season in NBA history. Ironically, those 73 RS wins that put them on precipice of immortality were also the reason why they fell short. Winning that many takes its toll, as previewed in the WC final versus OKC (4-3) where the champs had to pull their fat outta’ the fire just to move on. Of course, those 1995-96 Chicago Bulls piled a weary-worthy total themselves in their super season (72-10) and still managed to take the title versus Seattle (4-2). Just sayin.’

If It’s Broke…

As for the champs, even the car that sits in the Indy 500 winner’s circle can need a new gear-box. Cleveland’s clank? Absence of a floor leader who appreciates importance of running plays and the self-sacrifice necessary to get the ball into the right hands at the right time (assists). Cavaliers won in spite of deficiency.

Rubbermaid® NBA Finals 2017

NBA’s powers-that-be are salivating over the thought of a Cavs – Wars 3-peat. Who’s gonna’ stop ‘em anyway, besides the injury bug? That the Association’s overall quality of competition rating is at its lowest ebb since the scaling was first calibrated by this writer a few years back, matters not in the least to the Cufflinks, the same frat-boys who think tanking’s a joke, as long as the Big Celebrities make it to the Big Party, i.e., LeBron, Stevo, Durantula, Kyrie, etcetera.

.....rubber-ball.wc.6.30.7.Oroo.thm.colorEven if Durant does work a small drain of the splash-pool and Tyronn Lue takes no action to teach Kyrie who’s #1 (James) and fundamentals of point play, i.e., ‘See the ball, set a play, pass the ball,’ these two teams should have little trouble making it into next season’s Finals, again barring any notable injury issues.

And if they both do meet, it’s the Warriors who likely take the rubber-match.

Kyrie Irving’s not about to learn that kindergarten starter-skill called sharing and former All-Star Kevin Love is now so marginalized by team & press that LeBron’s likely to lose whatever hair he has left by season’s end.

For the Oaklanders, they’ve already got 73, the one with substance (See; Bonds (‘01))), and Kerr will make damn sure his guys are better rested this time in event they make the WC finals. Sixty-plus should get home-court East or West. No tanking, mind you, but SK will give his starters and select subs respites as needed to avoid the weariness that turned splash into a prolonged belly-flop in G5-7.

......straight_shooter.thmbSteven Keys
Straight Shooter
Photo Credits: Too-Many-Cooks, Google; K.Durant, wc.cca, 2-14, K.Allison; G.McGinnis, Philly; Durant, OSU, wc, KT.King, 10.31.11; Durant, wc, C.Johnson, 2010; S.Curry, wc, 3.2.11, K.Allison; R.Westbrook-Cavs, wc, 1.25.15, E.Drost; B.Kuhn, MLB, 1982, wc; S.Kerr, K.Allison, 2.24.25, wc; rubberband-ball, wc, 6.30.7, Oroo; Straight-Shooter, produce-label.
Posted: 7.11.16 @ 5:32pm EST; Copyright © 2016

NBA.F16: Cleveland Rocks But Kyrie Irving Just Won’t Role

8 Jun

Ball of Confusion

“All the world’s a stage. And all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances. And one man in his time plays many parts.”
        As You Like It, Act 2, Scene 7 (1599?), Edward de Vere (‘Shake-a-Spear’)

Like the Bard wrote, we all play roles in this life, shaped by our surroundings and circumstance and riding a rollercoaster of emotions all along the way.

And their dispatch is just as certain as the Stratford-upon-Avon shop-a-thon will sell upwards of 1,000,000 beakers kilned with the image of a ‘whosit’ whose “expression of a bladder” is purported to be the Shakespeare author to millions of tourists that flock yearly to the cozy & quaint make-believe mecca, though about 30 miles off course northwest (See; Oxford), to pay homage to the greatest writer Earth has ever known.

And as team sport is a microcosm of life, the defining roles of its players and then of course execution of those parts are the keys to a long, successful run.

..........Irving.wc.K.Allison.11.21.14.thmFinalist Cleveland Cavaliers, like all b-ball troupes, have their hardwood roles to perform in a multi-act production.

They have scorers, defenders and rebounders.

They have starters and reserves who come off the bench quick and ready to rock.

They have specialists in the 3-point launch, blocking shots, stealing inbounds passes and free-throw finesse to dissuade those late-game hack-attacks.

They should have a pecking order: A leading man in LeBron James and his co-stars in no fixed order, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, J.R. Smith and various other talented thespians of roundball.

And then they have the all-important play-maker. Almost always the point-guard but can be a wily forward with ‘wots and wots’ of wherewithal.

Or do they?

.......James.Love.Irving.wc.E.Drost.thm.10.1.14He, she is a person with ball-handling savvy, court vision, a coach’s appreciation for the skills & needs of his co-workers and a check-able ego who forsakes the 20-point tally to better feed the flock and hit the open man, so to speak, i.e., assists and lots of ’em (10-12 per). This floor leader is a ‘must have.’

But for Cleveland it’s a ‘must fill’ before Cavs’ carriage turns to pumpkin (0-2).

Fifth-year guard Kyrie Irving has been the man best suited to fill this role.

But piling points is his mission, leaving Cavs other big point producers in #1 James, #2 Love and shooter J.R. Smith failing to fulfill their production quotas in these 2016 finals. And against the high-scoring Warriors that just won’t do.

Admittedly it’s a little late in the game to be defining roles but when you’re struggling in the NBA Finals, filling voids cannot be an off-the-table topic.

While James and Love have shooters touch from the perimeter, their size and board ability make ’em serious inside threats that pin-point pass can facilitate.

Which also raises the question, why has a 6’8” power forward in James been leading the team in assists (LJ: 6.8 – KI: 4.7)?

........James.K.Allison.4.2.9.charge.thmLeBron has his critics. They come outta’ the woodwork when he falls short of a title. But he can never be accused of shirking responsibility. Unfortunately, that’s led him to the erroneous belief that he can be handle most of the assist duties to free up Irving to fire away. But James is neither Magic Johnson nor former Miami teammate Dwyane Wade, both power forwards who could transition to point guard on the fly, the latter whose skill in pass, board and score made him a veritable Paul Robson on the hardwood and the key additive to James drive to his first NBA title (2012 & 2013 (MIA)).

Cleveland’s strength is not the tres and, with all due respect, this is not the Allen Iverson show. Unfortunately, James, coach Tyronn Lue, nobody with authority it seems, or without, has had the foresight or gumption to impress the point upon the Westbrook-like, superstar wannabe, Mr. Irving, whose scoring talent is quite impressive but rostered first & foremost to help hoist an O’Brien for Forest City.

Cavs’ owner Dan Gilbert did not spend $21M+ per on multi-skilled Love, a 3x All-Star who came to snake-bit Cleveland willing to subjugate his top-dog status (MIN) to James in order to have him pull Dennis Rodman duty in rebounding, as important as it be (KI: $17.6M). Cavaliers should’ve been dominating the Wars with Curry & Klay catching Zs and acting bystanders to booyah benchmates.

.......Irving.E.Drost.1.25.15.wc.thmWere the Eastern Conference ranks not so lacking in serious contenders (QoC (WC’s not so hot itself)), the talent laden Cavaliers and their indecisive game plan might’ve missed out on these Finals altogether.

Cleveland’s precarious state tends to make the role issue and their 2016 NBA title hopes moot points, even were Love 100% and suited for play in G3 (out concussed). Good to keep in mind that when given a chance to shine, reserves can sometimes dazzle. It’s been known to happen.

Irving is a media favorite, gracing Sports Illustrated’s tip-off cover (6.6.16). But every player on a championship team needs a clearly defined role and Irving’s seems to’ve been scripted by his own hand. In his defense, whatever it may in fact be, it’s been validated throughout the season by Cavaliers’ leadership.

“To be, or not to be, that is the (championship) question” facing these Cavaliers. This one not as all serious as the Bard had in mind (Hamlet), but big doings nonetheless if you revel in sport and have an urge to hoist a few, O’Briens.

......straight_shooter.thmbSteven Keys
MacroSport
Photo Credit: K.Irving, wc.cca, 10.17.13, E.Drost; Irving, wc, 11.21.14, K.Allison; Love-Irving-James, wc, 10.1.14, E.Drost; L.James, wc, K.Allison, 4.2.9; Irving, wc, 1.25.15, E.Drost; Straight-Shooter, produce-label.
Posted: 6.8.16 @ 6:07pm EST; Copyright © 2016

NBA.F16: Awesome v. Epic As Cavs & Wars’ Worlds Collide

1 Jun

Mind v. Matter

Dandy dust-ups from the past century:

Ford v. Chevy: In a car culture these titans owned the road

Hamburger v. hot dog: Battle over barbecue taste buds never ends

Edison (DC) v. Tesla (AC): Geniuses wrestle for the right to light.

Crawford v. Davis: Golden age film greats fight for fans hearts & minds

Lakers v. Celtics: Early, often and coast-to-coast, their war made the NBA

Mantle v. Mays: In the hero-era, their images held sway over card collectors

The Beatles v. Elvis: British invaders, the mop-top lads moved Mr. Swivel out

Pepsi-Cola v. Coca Cola: Begins brand loyalty but this one can get out of hand;

Catsup v. ketchup: Speech style stirred debate until Hunts® bailed on the Cat.

Tastes great! v. Less filing!: Same vats (Miller) but campaign kept its head.

The Simpsons v. Family Guy: “Brian” alone makes this cartoon call easy as pie.

NBA.F16 features a collision in basketball styles and celebrity cults that is sure to rank among the best in entertainment annals.

........James.K.Allison.wc.thm.11.21.14With tip-off set for 9pm Thursday nite (6.2) at Oracle in Oakland, defending champ Golden State Warriors takes on a familiar foe from 2015 Finale, the Cleveland Cavaliers, as Warriors seek a cherry-on-top for a record 73 win season while the Cavaliers try again to deliver a first Larry O‘Brien title trophy to the Forest City.

Two faces decorate the marquee for this dollar donnybrook: Reigning MVP (2) Steve Curry v. 4-time winner LeBron James, both smooth customers and maybe the two hottest commercial commodities across these Consumer States of America (CSA).

Curry, coach Steve Kerr and the Warriors are darlings of the young set, their older siblings in journalism, Disney (ESPN) and not a small number of the ladies who may happen to drop in. Kerr’s Krew rely heavily upon the 3-pt shot, a tack heretofore unseen on Assc’n stage. When they’re turning the tres they set records and wow the crowd, but when they lay bricks the scaffolding can all come down.

Warriors best defense? The mind-game. Not the cruel kind, but in by-product.

It’s just one way in which 3-pt’er (’79) has gradually altered the game of b-ball: Inside action shifts to the high-post, less physicality even for mountain-sized men, 90s trend down in defense continues as tres-defenders opt-out in the risk-benefit balance and swings in momentum that can be seismic (GSW @ OKC G6).

To the last change, it’s not just an extra point the tres tacks on, it’s the psychological impact on the opposition that can demoralize and alter game plan. That’s not necessarily based on rational thought of the opposition but then in a sport where emotions run the gamut, who’s always rational? Coaches, captains try to fend off the heebie-jeebies but the current design of game can make it difficult, especially in final few.

.......Curry.3.2.11.wc.K.Allison.thmbCurry, Thompson, Draymond Green, Kerr and the rest of GSW must be commended for exploiting a shot that when made in bushels has, with a Freudian-like finesse, worked inside the heads of opponents. It can emotionally stifle a foes’ momentum, drain confidence while enunciating their own speech-in-swishery (Klay’s 3-pt mark), often running up the bill late in the session: Mind over matter.

In the other corner, the Cavs are, of course, led by Lego® LeBron, a team he, with owner Gilbert, built to their specs, though, 5th-year-point-guard-who-plays-like-shooting-guard Kyrie Irving does his best to pile points and tug the spotlight.

Earlier greats like Mikan, Russell, Cousy & Havlicek, Chamberlain & West, Big-O & Kareem, Magic, Bird, Jordan & Pippen, Shag, Kobe and Duncan, all sold the NBA product with lots o’ wins and titles galore, but no player has so completely embraced, mastered the role of corporate player as has Mr. James.

Still the favorite of most fans, young & old alike, LeBron guided his teams to enough Finals (6) and hoisted sufficient O’Briens (2) to legitimize his pitch to the public but carries himself with a dignity wrapped in a calm – cool -collected demeanor that should make him the envy of every marketing Cufflink in the land.

The crystal-ball reads pretty clear on this series.

Both squads are near full strength for this rematch of 2015 Final, Cleveland this time having services of their high paid, multi-skilled big-man-with-the-soft-shooting-touch in Love who exited early in 2015 playoffs. He, like his counterpart in Curry are both managing recent injuries that, if inflamed, could alter plans.

.......James.Love.Irving.wc.E.Drost.thm.10.1.14How to fend off the injury bug? Player regimen in nutrient supplementation at this point in the journey, including the Bs, ashwagandha, alpha lipoic acid, CoQ10, D3 and magnesium, all help with the blues, bruises, bones and boost. Then there are offerings to the Sporting Gods. Herbs & beer are tradition. Can’t be too careful.

On defense, you don’t get this far without knowing its value and how to employ it, at least most of the time, anyway, and then both benches are well stocked with capable talent but won’t make the starters too nervy.

Cleveland balances better on scoring, hold an edge on the boards and while Warriors are fleeter-of-feet they don’t utilize it to full advantage, often pulling up on the perimeter to launch the T-bombs (3-pt). Wars are slightly more proficient at the charity-stripe (.764 (.748)) and than can play big in close contests.

Warriors Keys

Prolific shooters in Curry & Thompson keep firing away, working through slumps that may befall. And having a back-up plan at the ready when the 3s start rattling the rim and ♫ clang clang clang ♫ like a San Fran trolley would be wise. Didn’t see one in the WC. Easier said than done but necessity’s the father of invention.

Cavaliers Keys

Avoid vesting heavily in 3-pt’er even as they’ve a panache (“25”), not let Golden showers of 3s (bad for sure but you gotta’ laugh) set their minds to worry, give ’em the Freudian slip, so to speak, utilize Kevin to his full potential (sure) to consistently impose their real strength: Power, in drive and rebound: Matter-a-fact-in-your-face, so to speak.

.......James.wc.4.27.8.K.Allison.thmThat’s where James mellow-mode, a corporate winner and fine with lesser foes, must give way to a controlled aggression in the Finals to put fear into hearts of men, not just those in blue & yellow but co-workers who need their minds set right too. Leadership, they call it.

Big shots (The Beatles) can afford big risks (♫ Getting Better ♫), Mr. James. Think of it in these terms, LeBron, “the (risk) you take is equal to the (market impact) you make.” Cha-ching!

Many in sportology will vacillate by keying on different players to rise to the occasion as the series evolves, hoping the roll comes up 7-11. I don’t play that game. The stars will perform and the support staff with shine depending on the circumstance (foes), their mood and level of moxie. That’s sport.

Who wins this NBA16 championship bout? Cavaliers most likely.

The interlude Cleveland’s enjoyed after dispatching Toronto with relative ease (4-2) can work a determent in dulling an edge, throwing a rhythm. That’s how it plays in football and rounders not infrequently. But in a sport like b-ball where the pace is grueling (soccer) and the post-season gauntlet runs long (NHL), more time off before a title round can heal wounds and re-charge draining batteries.

Rest gives an edge to the Forest City folk over a weary Warriors bunch who compiled 73 RS wins only to be pushed to 7G by a determined OKC bunch and escape by the “hair on their chinny chin chin(s).” Plus, the Ohioans should weather better those sure-to-come 3-point barrages than did the Thunder, possessing the men & methods to counter-punch on that point. At least that’s the arsenal it appears Cavs’ head coach Tyronn Lue n’ staff have at the ready.

.....straight_shooter.thmbSteven Keys
Straight-Shooter
Photo credits: S.Curry, wc.cca, 4.6.14, N.Salzman; L.James, wc, K.Allison, 11.21.14; Curry, wc, K.Allison, 3.2.11; Love-Irving-James, wc, 10.1.14, E.Drost; James, wc, 4.27.8, K.Allison; Straight-Shooter, produce-label.
Posted: 6.1.16 @ 11:56am; Copyright © 2016

NBA16: Cavaliers’ Key? Ceding #2 Star Some Needed Love

20 Apr

♫ “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do
Two can be as bad as one
It’s the loneliest number since the number one (“One” / Nilsson (’67))”♫

Every team’s got one.

He’s the guy (or gal (WNBA)) who tops his team in talent and on most nights tops the scoreboard, too. He attracts throngs of celebrity seekers, most of the camera shots and in the professional basketball ranks will rake in the biggest bucks.

He gets coach’s gaze for most the game and bears the responsibility of being the team leader on and off the court. When down, he picks ‘em up, when they’re hitting on all cylinders he keeps ‘em steady. That’s the expectation, anyway, of co-workers and brass. And he’s typically the go-to guy (gal) in the clutch. Swish!

He’s the #1.

But you don’t need to be a b-ball aficionado to appreciate that in team sport, no #1 can carry a squad on their back for long, not Bill Russell nor Dirk Nowitski. To win a title there must be skill at all positions, filled by both a capable cast of reserves coming off the bench and a stalwart set of starters to boot, and re-boot.

Most important of those leading men? The #2, of course.

.......Love.10.1.14.E.Drost.wc.thmEvery great #1 had a top-flight second, in compliment as a double-barreled bang of shooting or rebounding prowess, other times to fill the void, step into the breach when the main man has taken a tumble, gets the debilitating double-team or is just having one of those rare ‘off’ games.

Like the superstar, the All-Star vice-admiral, as it were, has a great responsibility, maybe greater than the #1 because if he slips up more than once it’s a pretty good bet it’ll be ‘Sayonara, Sonny’ sometime soon. Scapegoat‘s must be had, especially on digestible contracts. Gulp.

A short list of some of the best NBA player tandems-in-terrific:

Bill Russell (#1) and Bob Cousy (#2), then John Havlicek;
Elgin Baylor and Jerry West, then Jerry and Wilt (#1);
Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Oscar Robertson;
Willis Reed and Dave DeBusschere (Walt Frazier (2.25));
Magic Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar (James Worthy);
Larry Bird and Robert Parrish (Kevin McHale);
Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler;
Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer;
Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen;
Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant (or vice versa);
Tim Duncan and Tony Parker (Manu Ginobili);
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade (Chris Bosh);
Steve Curry and Klay Thompson

On occasion the #2 will resist his better-suited but somewhat subservient role as a 2d-in-Command, attempting to usurp the #1 (See; Westbrook & Durant (#1) (OKC)), keeping a team in quandary-land.

But typically, the issue concerns a clouding of the #2 spot by any number of other talented yet supporting cast members on the team.

......James.wc.1.25.15.E.Drost.thmbWithout that solidified #2 the team will never reach it’s true potential.

Such is the case in the Forest City.

We all know #1 on Cavs’ roster, though, LeBron James himself will forever be semi-shy about grasping firmly his role, believing too often ‘‘tis better to give (assists) than to receive.’

LeBron is a 6’8” 250 lbs. strong-as-an-ox power forward who nonetheless led the Cavaliers in total assists 2016 (514) and apg (6.8), though, pt-guard Kyle Irving (249 (4.7)) suited for just 53 of Cavs’ contests. The game-averages speak loudly.

A top gun who readily shares the ball is very sweet, sensible sometimes, but not exactly enhancer of that championship-run, either, if done out of consternation, misplaced sense of generosity or fear of failure.

Who then is Cavaliers’ #2? That’s an issue presently in flux and unless worked to wide satisfaction soon, potentially derailing of a championship run.

Thirteen-year NBA veteran J.R. Smith (12.4 / 1.7a / 2.8rb (2015-16)) would like to believe it is he who’s Cavs 2d-in-Command and James’ right hand man. This outlook may stem from his Knickerbockers stint (18.1 (2012-13 (NBA 6th-Man))). But like Stevie Wonder sang, ‘When you believe in things you don’t understand, then you suffer.’ And sometimes Earl Joseph tends to “suffer” realization he’s not #2, or #1, for that matter.

More troubling for Cleveland would be Mr. Irving believing he is in fact #2.

.....Irving&Singler.10.17.13.wc.E.Drost.thmNot because Kyle is not All-Star caliber. He is (x3) and led the way for Cavs in opening playoff round match against Detroit, pouring in 31 w/6 assists and 5 boards in their too-close-for-comfort win vs Detroit, 106-101. Because Irving is a point guard needed to set-up the score (See; M. Cheeks) and if too tied to swishery will tap team synergy.

Cleveland’s true #2: Kevin Love, the 6’10, 250 lbs, power-forward / center who unfortunately has not been playing to that number often enough.

The 27-year old is counting on making this playoff run to it’s conclusion, his second attempt in Cavaliers uniform after suffering injury-exit in 1st-Rd of last season‘s post-regular play.

Kevin was top free-agent on the market two years back when his contract was set to end in Minnesota. Cleveland knew they wanted Kev and made early in-road and signed the 3-time All-Star to a deal which was extended last year.

On most any other team Love is the #1, the prototypical soft-shooter’s touch who’ll bang inside for the boards. Out of the same mold as Jerry Lucas, Bob Pettit, Elgin Baylor, Elvin Hayes, Jack Sikma, Charles Barkley and Dirk Nowitski. Big names all and big shoes to fill but Kev’s played big enough in his NBA career (2008 (UCLA)) to at least slip ‘em on and walk around a bit.

Get Kevin to cut down on the tres and he might lace ‘em up (439 / 5.7 (‘15-16)).

The Santa Monica (CA) native, Oregon-reared (Lake Oswego HS) and UCLA matriculee gave up a #1 status to join a Cleveland team needing a #2 to tandem with James and get that championship ring for himself and the city on the Great Lake Erie, a top priority for LeBron and owner Dan Gilbert.

.....Love.1.25.15.thm.wc.E.DrostThough James (#1) – Love (#2) pecking order was the likely plan but too often it has not been the reality in the 2015-16 Cavaliers’ campaign as other talented teammates seem all too eager to fill that key #2 slot. Nobody ever tried to move Scottie Pippen out his #2 spot and haven’t Kyle Thompson as yet.

Love’s certainly been playing with moxie enough. Making 93% of the RS slate in his two Cleveland tours (152 of 164) and is a Assc’n leader in rebounds (9.9 / 762 (‘15-16)). The ORB is down a bit from Minnesota days and season total has been considerably higher (1112 (‘10-11)). Fair to write that different roster make-up and delegated duties (coach think) play a role there.

It’s the notable downward trend in his scoring average (16.0 (26.1 (‘13-14))) that red-flags and offers insight into why Cleveland may not be getting all it hoped.

Because scoring is interwoven with team play, it suggests his ‘mates are playing more of a role than expected in shaping Love’s play into a form that’s probably not as planned and not to Kev’s nor Cavaliers best advantage.

Love’s not being paid king’s ransom in Cleveland to be 3rd in team scoring, a guy who’s averaged 26 per, twice in his 8-year pro career.

Okay, Kev’s the #2, arguably, and not meeting expectation of that rank, how do you get him there? It’s one thing to be tabbed #2, it’s another to hold onto it.

.....Lue&Blatt.1.25.15.wc.thm.E.DrostSetting that pecking-order is not often verbalized, and for good reason, so Love must assert himself, make clear he wants the job, can carry it off through thick n’ thin (latter which’ll test everyone’s championship mettle), won’t take kindly to usurpers and if succeeds gets good backing. Part of that process now means asking for the ball more often or, if necessary, demanding it.

The FG% is down to lowest in his career (.419) while FT% is one of his highest (.822). Anyone who’s played b-ball knows you’ve gotta’ shoot ‘em to make ‘em, not just to up the total but to find your rhythm, get in a groove (%). Feed the big man the ball more often and watch that average rise to a former rate.

And that’s where first-year head coach Tyronn Lue and LeBron play key roles.

Dishing out possessions (assists) is what James likes to do. I question the tack, believing that whenever this forceful figure gets the ball he aught keep it and take it strong to the hoop. Who’ll stop him? But “a rose is a rose,” as Gertrude Stein would’ve said. The die is cast. LeBron won’t change and can help Love, the team, by-way of his ‘assistance.’

Knowing your role is crucial when mining for the O’Brien metal.

.....straight_shooter.thmbSteven Keys
Straight-Shooter
Photo credit: K.Love, wc.cca, 11.21.14, K.Allison; Love, wc, E.Drost, 10.1.14; L.James, wc, E.Drost, 1.25.15; K.Irving-Singler, wc, 10.17.13, E.Drost; Love, wc, 1.25.15, E.Drost; Blatt-Lue, wc, 1.25.15, E.Drost; Straight-Shooter, produce-label.
Posted: 4.20.16 @ 6:32pm, edit 8:29 EST; Copyright © 2016

Tim Duncan: Spurs ‘Peerless Leader’ In the Paint

31 Mar

Roundball Recovery Act

They were giants of the sporting world, names like George Mikan, Bob Pettit, Bill Russell, Wilt the Stilt, Truck, Moses, The Enforcer, Mr. Mean, the Big O, the Big E and the Big Redhead.

Basketball’s leviathans in the low post.

Fans thrilled at their combination of size, strength and agility. The battles they waged under the boards defined the National Basketball Association and made sport headlines for over 50 years.

But change is the constant in a consumer democracy.

The Chuck Taylor high-tops and short-shorts are long gone, replaced with hideous foot-wear and a plethora of prison-yard tattoos. Historic but cramped old arenas gave-way to bigger & brighter venues with better seats, paint-happy hardwood and $14.50 nachos.

And no change has been greater than disappearance of the inside game. In particular, the demise of the dominant center and power-forward.

....Duncan.CC-BY-2.0.wc.12.05.thmDifferent from women’s basketball where the tall pivot player still has a place, the menacing man in the middle has become an endangered species.

Since the days Kareem Abdul-Jabbar donned the Lakers’ royal regalia you could count on two hands the number of big men who’ve dominated down low: Robert Parish, Larry Bird, Kev McHale, Bill Laimbeer, Shaq, Magic, Dennis Rodman, Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard nearly fill out a very short list.

The culprit: NBA’s adoption of the 3-point shot.

The National was sitting pretty in the late 70s. In a State-sponsored legal structure that today embraces monopoly, the Assc’n siphoned what liquidity was left in it’s only competitor, the 10-year old ABA (‘67-76)), negotiated lucrative TV / merchandise deals but then started to get cute in the marketing department.

In 1979 they reached into their former rival’s bag of tricks (the ABA employed the dunk and the tres in 1968 “as marketing tool(s) to compete with the NBA (Wikipedia)”) and pulled out the three-point shot to prime the pump.

And b-ball’s never been the same.

There had been a symmetry, a yin & yang that worked a balance in roundball.

....Cowens.wc.1976.TSN.thm.R.KingsburyFans were treated to two theaters of play: one inside where bruisers like Thurmond, Dantley, Unseld, Reed, Walton, Lanier, Cowens, Maurice Lucas, Gilmore and Issel waged war; the other, out on the key where long-rangers David Thompson, West, Bing, Frazier, “Pistol” Pete Maravich, George “Iceman” Gervin, Brian Winters, James Worthy and Vinnie “Microwave” Johnson could heat up in a hurry. And then marvelous middle-men like Bobby Dandridge, Marcus Johnson and Bobby Jones who could seemingly do it all. A veritable smorgasbord of spectacular.

As long as both theaters had direction there was a symbiosis and the houses were packed. No need to bait with famble (fantasy – gamble), no talk of tank and the game flourished for all ages.

By the mid-90s the physical, combative play which had made the sport so colorful simply vanished. Centers and power forwards devolved into mere supporting cast. Much of the action moved away from the paint and out to the key where guards and wannabes directed the flow and became the stars.

The spotlight swung away from bangers and over to finesse men like Erving and Jordan as the 3-pointer and un-contested dunk became signature plays.

As most NBA rookies are today on the 3-yr maturation plan they’ll not develop the wide range of skills that stylers like Dr. J and Michael would eventually learn.

“You don’t sell the steak, you sell the sizzle (Seinfeld).”

.....Durant.thm.OKC.K.Allison.2.1.14.wcThey don’t sell the game anymore, they sell celebrity, air-time (TV / Twitter), gambling (FanDuel / DraftKings) and merchandise (cantaloupe-sized driver heads and wicked metal bats in Little League (Outside the Lines (Disney); 3.1.11)). If it generates a revenue stream then history, integrity, quality and sometimes safety it would appear, get swept aside until uproar begins.

When big-shots like Kev Love (6’10) and Kev Durant (6’9) spend half their time on the perimeter, averaging around 400 three’s per season, you know the game’s gone soft. Both should live inside 15 feet. Instead, recent seasons have seen a steady up-tick in their 3PAs, surprising, given the fine shooting touch both possess when not launching long ones (FG%: .444 (.360) / .483 (.380)).

Prime example of a tamer NBA: In a 2012 post-season game between the Lakers and Thunder (G2), with 6 ticks left and down by just one, rather than design a drive to the hoop for two, maybe draw the foul for three and even on a 2-pt miss, possessing good rebound capability (Gasol / Bynum), coach Mike Brown opts for the low-% 3-pt’er that Steve Blake rims out. Both got lambasted post-game but what the Lakers did was SOP in today’s basketball.

There are men who keep alive dynamic play in the paint like Tim Duncan, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, Kev Love (imagine if he‘d forget the tres), DeAndre Jordan, Andre Drummond and forward Blake Griffin: A dying breed.

.....Chance.1913.Bain-News.LoC.thmClosing in on 40 (4.25.76), the former Demon Deacon (See Also; Chris Paul) and U.S. Virgin Islands native has seen his scoring average dip under double-digits (8.5) and minutes below the 25 mark (24.9 (55g)) for first time in his illustrious 19-year NBA career. But like the original “Peerless Leader” in Cubs’ champion Mgr/ 1B’er Frank “Husk” Chance (1898 – 1914), the savvy & strength Duncan imbues in his Spurs team down the stretch, a roster with no shortage of experience in fellow gray-beards in Tony Parker (14), Manu Ginobili (13), Andre Miller (16), Kev Martin (11), David West (12), Matt Bonner (11) and Boris Diaw (11), may make-up for the decline in mobility & capacity that father time always exacts from the athlete who loves the game and goes long.

For the 3-pointer, it’s time it was bounced outta’ the building. Send it, along with dunk contests and home run derby back to Cartoon Country, i.e., Saturday morning TV. That’s not likely to happen but seeing as how the youthenized NBA has no use for the balanced game, maybe a new adult pro league would. Then watch the roundball renaissance begin.

Don’t ever forget this pointer: It’s their business but it’s our game.

.....straight_shooter.thmbSteven Keys
Straight Shooter
Photo credit: T.Duncan, wc, M.Sandoval, 1.28.07; Duncan, 12.05, CC-BY-2.0, wc; D.Cowens, 1976, TSN, R.Kingsbury, wc; K.Durant, wc, OKC, K.Allison, 2.1.14; F.Chance, wc, Bain-News, 1913, LoC; Straight-Shooter-produce label.
Posted: 3.31.16 @ 5;16pmEST; Copyright © 2016